‘At Reed, we will continue to expand’

TOM NUTLEY, chairman of Reed Travel Exhibitions, on ILTM, RTE and more Interviewed by shafquat ali

TTN: What will you bring to the table now that Reed Travel Exhibitions (RTE) has acquired the International Luxury Travel Market (ILTM)?
Tom Nutley: Obviously we’ve got a huge database – I’ve got nearly a quarter of a million individuals on that – so we will be using that database more extensively. 

We are planning to make some improvements in terms of logistics though we will still work closely with Serge (Dive), one of the founders of ILTM, who has become an authority on the luxury market. We will obviously use his inputs and his expertise but, generally speaking, we will try to provide an event that provides good business returns for all the sellers and the buyers. We will strive to make the event even better.
However, we are not looking for fantastic growth for ILTM in the future. If anything, we are going to go slow because we only want to grow by the numbers of qualified people we can bring. ILTM recorded 22 per cent growth in 2005. I’m looking for something like 10 to 15 per cent growth this year. We want to slow down this fast acceleration in the early years.

Is it easy to turn down prospective buyers and exhibitors?
It’s easy for me. I know the biggest danger you can have is where you’ve grown the event by the number of buyers you can bring. We grew the event by 22 per cent in 2005 but we only increased the number of hosted buyers by the same percentage. So what we will be doing is deciding how much we can increase the number hosted buyers of this year and then we’ll increase the event by roughly the same percentage.

What about Cannes? There’s talk that the event may move to another venue….
We’ll stay in Cannes as long as we are happy with the arrangements here. There may be some point in the distant future where Cannes may probably not be suitable but, so far, we are happy with Cannes and Cannes seems happy with us. As long as that relationship remains the same, we’re staying.

Do you intend to grow ILTM into something more than an exhibition?
We will focus on the travel side. We may have some people from luxury markets coming here as partners, but not necessarily as exhibitors. And maybe because of the audience we get, some luxury projects might want to be exposed to that audience, but I wouldn’t see that as part of the core business. That’s not exactly why we are here. It maybe some icing on the cake, if you like, but we will stick to the exhibition side.

Does your vision of where you want to take ILTM match Serge’s?
Well, I certainly never looked into growing this into a show. I launched this into an exhibition model and we were involved from the beginning – Reed was a shareholder from its inception. We’ve been here with ILTM since the planning stages though we were a minority shareholder rather than majority then. However, we’ve influenced the way ILTM has grown.

What’s on the cards for 2006?
For one, we have introduced the Signatory Club. It gives the buyers and sellers an opportunity to tell us which organisations should and should not be a part of what ILTM stands for in luxury and exclusivity. If clients believe a certain product shouldn’t be here, then we have to take that into consideration because obviously the clients know better than we do – you might have a luxury product but if the buyers are saying that the service is not good then we have to question whether they have got to really be in the show in 2006.

In terms of Reed, are you going to add new exhibitions?
Nothing I can talk about. All I can say is that we will be expanding and I’m in discussion for three different projects at the moment. None of them may come out or all of them may happen – I mean we’re at a level of discussion where I can’t really say anything. The confidentiality is high in all three cases. If any of them does materialise, we’ll be looking at launching in 2007 not in 2006 though we will announce the same in the early half of this year.

Any particular region that you are looking at?
There is potential in many regions. I am always being approached by different countries about launching travel shows in their particular country or region. I have to be selective and I have to see what has got the best chance of succeeding.
The three that are under discussions at the moment hold out good opportunity and are likely to fill a gap in the market.

How do you see the Middle East market in particular and what potential does it hold out?
Well, you are looking at the hotels, construction, conference and exhibition centres – that investment obviously is not being made on the basis that those places are going to be empty. So, they’ve got to be filled and those places have got to be promoted and sold. So you look at what’s going on in Qatar and Abu Dhabi or in that region and you will find that they are building lots of new hotel properties and conference and exhibition centres. They are going to promote those places, host events and fill those venues and hotels.
So, there are a lot of exciting places and there’s a lot going on. Egypt, for example, is going to focus more on apartments so a lot of people are going to buy second homes there. They will make it easy for expats to buy property there. So, that’s going to be a focus for Egypt. Likewise, every country has got its own strategy and because of our network, we are dealing with every region in the world. We are quiet aware of what’s going on in all the different places, and the secret obviously is to get in at the right time.

There’s tremendous growth in Dubai. Are you pleased with the way Arabian Travel Market (ATM) has shaped up?
I am extremely pleased with ATM. It’s been posting double-digit growth every year for 12 years now, and it looks like it will post double-digit growth in 2006 as well.

Do you think other Gulf countries try and copy the Dubai model?
Following the discussions that I’ve had with other players in the market down there, I think, the other countries are not looking at copying Dubai. They are looking to expand but they are not aiming to attract the sort of numbers that Dubai is drawing. Obviously, they have different financial parameters because Dubai, we know, is going to run out of oil in a few years whereas the other countries have got oil and gas reserves for a long, long time.

There are many new exhibition organisers who have got into the fray. Do you see competition hotting up?
I don’t worry about competition.

Where do you see RTE five years from now?
We will continue to expand and will continue to try and provide a better service for buyers and sellers.  What anyone else does, I don’t mind.